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Wednesday, November 12, 2008

What would Dale Sr. say? DEI to merge with Ganassi, form four-car team

Dale Earnhardt Inc. used to be a winning program in Cup.
Dale Earnhardt Jr. regularly made it Victory Lane, Michael Waltrip won several races and Steve Park even grabbed a couple checkered flags.

In the same vein, Chip Ganassi is used to winning races. He wins titles and races on a regular basis in Indycar, and the Cup team he runs with Felix Sabates was a title contender not too long ago with Sterling Marlin.

But both teams have been struggling mightily, and after a season with 500 rumors about teams merging, one of them actually came to pass. In this era of Hendrick and Roush dominance, any team without a squadron of four to compare information is automatically at a disadvantage, and merging is more doable that expanding your own team with the credit markets currently frozen.

DEI is officially dead. So is Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates. Now, we have Earnhardt Ganassi Racing.

Somehow, I don’t think that’s what Dale Sr. had in mind when he started the company. In fact, his name is gone completely. It makes sense though, as people have been calling the team TEI for a while now, so getting rid of Dale’s name is just lining things up with reality.

I have chronicled the miscues of Teresa Earnhardt in the past, so I will not rehash myself. Let me sum it up by saying she basically screwed the pooch on this one. Since the defection of their cash cow Dale Jr., for which she can take the brunt of the blame, the team has been shedding drivers and sponsors quicker than anyone could have imagined.

This new team will consist of Martin Truex Jr. in the #1, Juan Pablo Montoya in the #42, Aric Almirola in the #8, and a yet-to-be-named driver in the #41 car.

There’s a problem, though, that this merger does nothing to solve. There are four cars, but only two-and-a-half cars worth of sponsorship -- a full year from Bass Pro Shops coming from DEI, a full year from Target coming from Ganassi, and a half season from Juicy Fruit from Ganassi.

This move also shuts down the #01 team, freeing up Richard Childress to buy the points from that team for Clint Bowyer in his new fourth team for 2009 (as if we didn‘t know that was going to happen). And, of course, Regan Smith is now officially job hunting, though I don‘t expect him to be anywhere in Cup next year.

Beyond what he could have done on the track, Dale Sr.’s passing also robbed us of seeing what he could do with his company, which was on a track for greatness on that day in 2001 after the 1-2 Daytona finish. We can only wonder what he would have done differently, and whether he could have gotten closer than Teresa did to taking on the Hendrick and Roush juggernauts.

One thing is for sure. If he was still around, Jr. was be right there with him and not at Hendrick, and the team would likely be performing well enough that it wouldn't need this merger.

I do not think this merger will work miracles for either team unless the sponsorship money comes through and they get top talent in the garage and on the pit box. But I’m not going to fault Ganassi or Teresa for doing what they can to try to save their companies.

Ganassi’s never been able to get that Indycar magic over to the stock car side, so this is just his latest attempt to do that. But in Teresa’s case, people angry over this merger should realize that the downfall of DEI began with her.

I’m sure the number is still kicking around in her head. All Jr. wanted was 51 percent.

Don’t forget the Big 3

I read a scary article today, which said that many politicians in Washington are willing to let the Big 3 U.S. automakers fail, rather than do something to bail them out in the near future, such as extending billions of dollars of loans to them until sales pick up.

Forget about how GM, Ford and Chrysler failing would affect NASCAR, the situation would mean a bloodbath of hundreds of thousands of job cuts that would further destroy an already weak U.S. economy.

I’m not one for big government by any means, as evidenced by how terribly they are screwing up what to do with the recently passed $700 billion bailout bill for the banks. But I fail to understand how any lawmaker with common sense would want the U.S.’s automakers to go by the wayside. These people have no understanding of how devastating that would be for America. It would cost us far more than the amount of a loan.

America may be the greatest country in the world in many people’s eyes, but our government sure has their priorities screwed up. If they fail to ensure that the Big 3 succeed, while at the same time propping up banks in every way possible, their logic meter is clearly failing.

If there are no cars to buy, there’s going to a lot less people going to the bank to get loans.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Number one there would not have been any sponsorship issues at DEI because the Nascar's main cashcow Dale Jr would more than likely never left and Senior knew how to use his ample leverage as well landing deals. It's unfathomable to me how she drove the thing into the ground this quickly, going from one of the top three GM teams to a relative middle of the pack operation. I would imagine Childress is just shaking his head over this whole deal, you don't see him having to invite partners into RCR. Now the question has be ask would this have happened if she would have swallowed her pride and just sold the racing side of DEI to Junior last year I seriously doubt it but that it didn't happen is a very lucky thing for Junior as well. I think it's a sad day for all the fans of DEI to see them partnered up with a mediocre bunch like Ganassi's Cup operation. I have great respect for Chip in the open wheeled side but he really hasn't distinguished himself at all in Cup racing. Cup will always take second stage to his open wheeled operation as it should. I look for her to take her leave of the sport within the next year just quietly selling out everything except the museum and trinket peddling side. And for most everyone that's probably a good thing, it's not like she had a huge presence anyway and any enthusiasm she showed looked very forced.

November 13, 2008 at 11:06 AM 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

He would say give them H E L L Babby give the H E L L .

November 13, 2008 at 6:26 PM 

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